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Resources for Local Meetings

A Quaker Response to Mass Incarceration.

Since August 2013, Friends in many BYM monthly meetings have read and discussed with one another The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. That book describes how the “War on Drugs” led to an explosion in the U.S. prison population and in the incarceration of people of color at rates many times that of white people even though both whites and people of color commit drug offenses at roughly the same rate. The author notes that those caught up in the system become, even when released from prison, subject to legally sanctioned discrimination in employment and housing and are often denied the right to vote just as African-Americans were during the first half of the 20th Century.  After reading and discussing the book, many Friends are motivated to work to end “the new Jim Crow” and to help the victims of it recover. To support those Friends the BYM Working Group on Racism has developed the brochure, A Quaker Response to Mass Incarceration: What Can I Do?

The Working Group on Racism offers the following facilitated sessions to local Meetings. We also offer to be present for any other session a Meeting might have in mind related to race, racial justice and diversity, including open-ended discussions on these issues.

Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, a film by Shakti Butler, 2006 ( An intro, the screening of the 50-minute DVD and a follow-up discussion requires two-and-a-half hours, but has been done in two hours. This film features the experiences of white women and men who have worked to gain insight into what it means to challenge notions of racism and white supremacy in the United States. Yes magazine describes it as “a must-see documentary for all people who are interested in justice, spiritual growth and community making.”

Children Can Discriminate – This Can Be a Good Thing, a workshop by Gail Thomas and Elizabeth DuVerlie. When we act as if race doesn’t exist, we actually teach children (who observe it clearly) not to talk about it. Let’s turn this from an unintended taboo into a fruitful way to know other people. We will refer to the book Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman and other materials. We will practice ways to have open and comfortable conversations on the topic of differences.

Questions About Race, a discussion based on the questions submitted at the 2010 Annual Session. A two-hour interest group at the Yearly Meetings 2010 summer gathering has demonstrated the effectiveness of this material for generating lively, fruitful discussion.

Response to Slavery, a workshop developed and led by David Etheridge on Quakers in the mid-Atlantic and slavery. Friends in the Mid-Atlantic area didn’t just talk about slavery. They were at the eye of the storm. How did Quakers in Baltimore Yearly Meeting respond? The workshop will present the results of a year of research into this history. We’ll discern what lessons for today can be drawn from that history.

Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship. Trained facilitators lead a discussion of the book Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship. Jean-Marie Prestwidge-Barch and Alison Duncan are the trained facilitators within Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

Talking About Age, Race and Class – a workshop by Jean-Marie Prestwidge-Barch. What happens when we first meet someone? In seconds, often without much conscious thought, we ask ourselves: “Will we like them? Will they like us? Have we anything in common? Do they have anything to teach us? Are they ‘a part of’ or ‘apart from’ our group? How would we know?” Most of us make assumptions, but we are rarely aware of how we make them, and they don’t always serve us well. Through worship, sharing and play we’ll challenge our assumptions and explore how we use them.

ICYIZERE: Hope, a film by Patrick Muriethi, 95 minutes, 2009. Filmed over the course of three years, ICYIZERE: Hope is a documentary about a reconciliation workshop in Rwanda that brings together 10 survivors and 10 perpetrators of the 1994 genocide, with encouraging results. Through addressing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and conducting a series of group exercises that help to build trust, the workshop brings participants to a place where they realize that: a) they are more similar than different; b) they are all, victim and aggressor, suffering from trauma; c) the most effective way to overcome trauma is by making an effort to forgive each other and work toward rebuilding trust within the community. It is a film about the power of, and the need for, forgiveness.

Race: The Power of an Illusion, from the PBS series, 2003. Three parts, 56 minutes each. Permission needed from the producers, California Newsreel. “This series challenges one of our most fundamental beliefs: that humans come divided into a few distinct biological groups. This definitive three-part series is an eye-opening tale of how what we assume to be normal, commonsense, even scientific, is actually shaped by our history, social institutions and cultural beliefs.”

An Unlikely Friendship, by Diane Bloom, 43 minutes, 2002. A film about a surprising friendship that emerged between an embittered Ku Klux Klan leader and an outspoken black woman activist. Told in their own words, this compelling story is as sincere and down-home as the protagonists.

Cultural Conversations: Teen Voices on White Privilege, a film by Tiffany Taylor and Ali Michels, 21 minutes, 2010. This DVD features mostly white and black high school students discussing their understanding of and experience with white privilege. The WGR has prepared a dozen questions that ask viewers about their own experiences and perspectives concerning white privilege.

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, an 84-minute film by Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer. The 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech was principally organized by openly gay, African-American Quaker Bayard Rustin. Rustin lived his life openly and without apology, whether serving three years in Federal prison for refusing to register for the draft or living in an inter-racial gay relationship, long before the gay liberation movement ever started in America. Rustin also brought Gandhi's protest techniques to the American civil rights movement, and helped mold King into an international symbol of peace and nonviolence.

A Personal Matter: Gordon Hirabayashi vs. The United States, a 1992 film by Jon de Graaf. During World War II, Gordon Hirabayashi, a current member of Seattle Friends Meeting, refused to be interned in the camps with other Japanese Americans in the U.S. on the ground that the Executive Order requiring him to do so violated his constitutional rights. Hirabayashi, a University of Washington student, was convicted of violating a curfew and relocation order, and his appeal reached the Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction. He served time in federal prison for his refusal. In 1987, long after he completed his sentence, his convictions on both charges were overturned by federal courts.

Listening Project on Diversity and Outreach in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Shortly after what is now the Working Group on Racism began meeting in 2001, it decided to undertake a detailed and deliberate listening to Friends throughout the Yearly Meeting by undertaking a “listening project.” We wanted to ask questions about Friends’ thoughts on Quakerism, their local Meeting, racial diversity in the Meeting, outreach to their neighbors, and what, if anything their Meeting should do about any of these matters. We wanted to do it in a manner that would stimulate ideas and deepen discernment. The results of that Listening Project are posted at David Etheridge, who helped design and carry out the Listening Project, is available to talk about it and facilitate a discussion in your Meeting about the issues it raises for your Meeting community.

To schedule an event contact Elizabeth DuVerlie or 410-243-1992.

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